When many people are counting the cost of retirement or making plans to stop working, Don and Bev Urquhart are continuing to count the cost of following Jesus on the mission field. They have been serving CRU for 45 years and 17 of those years reaching out to international students through Bridges International. The Lord continues to open new doors for them to minister to international students. Currently, they have been serving students at California State University Bakersfield (CSUB). However, when the Lord raised up student volunteers in San Diego, Don and Bev jumped into what God was doing there.
Has any of this been a surprise for them and what are their hopes and dreams for the future as they live out their calling for Christ? We sat down to ask them how their journey of loving international students began and if they saw any of this coming.
Don Urquhart began serving in ministry on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU) after graduating from Cal State Long Beach. His first assignment was at Cal Poly Pomona where he noticed there were a lot of international students on campus and he asked his director if he could reach out to these students. God put a love in his heart to serve the students and Don saw Japanese students come to faith in Christ.
He began to build relationships with them on their terms and he had to learn to be patient. Don describes ministering to the Japanese students this way, “Americans expect conversations to be played like ping-pong. You lob one over, someone lobs one back. I had to be patient and realize that conversation with Japanese students was going to be more like bowling. I shouldn’t expect a reply to my comments all the time. I eventually learned I just needed to be ok with that.” For Don, his patience and love for these students would grow each day as he waited on God’s timing.
The Gospel changed the lives of the Japanese students so much that they asked Don to come to Japan. Don began a college ministry and lived with a host family. In the meantime, Don had met and begun to pursue a relationship with Bev in the States who was also on staff with CRU. God was using Bev to serve Vietnamese students transitioning to the United States at Cal State Long Beach. God would put Don’s patience into practice once again. He sent a cassette tape proposal to Bev from Japan. He would now need to wait patiently for her response.
Bev and Don eventually married and began serving international students together in ministry. Later, they spent 20 years doing cross-cultural training with Agape International Training. The first seven years were in Los Angeles and the remaining 13 years were in Bakersfield. After that, they began to reach out to international students at CSUB with Bridges International.
Now in a season of life when many their age begin to bring their vocational life to a close, the Lord presented Don and Bev with a new opportunity in San Diego to continue to build the kingdom of God by reaching international students. The first opportunity in San Diego came as Bev coached a CRU staff gal who wanted to reach out to international students. Through her, Bev met two students who were also interested in reaching out to international students and she began coaching them. Then the Lord brought another staff gal to San Diego who had just returned from serving in Italy who also wanted to serve international students. So, they both offered to train this group as well as other interested students and a couple who volunteer their time and home in San Diego.
What is Don and Bev’s key teaching to this group? It is to coach this next generation of leaders how to get started in the many aspects of launching a cross-cultural college ministry to international students. This involves training, Skype calls for coaching, and campus visits. They are able to bring their gifts and years of experience working on a college campus.
“God just raised up people in San Diego. We and other Bridges’ leaders were praying for growth and God answered,” Bev said.
They count it a privilege to equip and train and come alongside where there is no Bridges’ staff. “Yes, we are always surprised by what God does. This never becomes common to us. The affirmation is seeing the fruit of ministry,” says Don. The Urquharts remind us that God is above culture and our expectations.
Over 1,000,000 international students come to the USA each year to study and of those approximately 135,000 come to California. Many of these students will return to their countries after completing their studies to pursue their professions. Consider the impact you might make in the nations if you were to share Christ with one student who goes back to their country and shares Christ with their co-workers? Scientists, business leaders, and government workers could have their lives changed with the hope of Christ.
When asked what their hope and dreams are for the future as they live out their calling for Christ, they simply responded, “That each international student would have the opportunity to hear the gospel.”
Presently, the Covid virus is presenting new challenges in reaching out to students. They have been doing Zoom and Google calls with students and using some video clips to train the volunteers in reaching out to students. They have done a few social distancing events just to keep in touch with those students who are still here. One Zoom called included a Japanese gal and a guy from Saudi Arabia.
Have you considered missions, but aren’t sure how you can join God with what He is doing because you can’t travel? They are looking for volunteers that have a heart for the gospel. Don says, “Obey what God is calling you to do. He will supply your motivations. Remain obedient to Him.” Bev adds, “It is a joy and privilege to work with international students from all over the world.”
Will you join with them in praying for growth and laborers in San Diego? Contact Bev and Don to find out some ways you can partner with them on campus at CSUB or to host an international student for a meal in your home: Beverly.firstname.lastname@example.org or Don.email@example.com